Shepherds—in the Field, Making Tracks

Christmas Travelers

8shepherdsThere they were, minding their own business (which was sheep) and the most astounding event in their shepherding career burst upon them. Never had they imagined an angel visitation, much less a host of worshiping angels. How astounding was that sight, that sound on an otherwise routine night? What they saw and heard was like nothing they ever experienced or would experience again.

After telling the terrified shepherds to not fear and then sharing the secret of the ages, the angel added this caveat, “You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” He didn’t have to say, “Go.” Of course they would go! Wouldn’t you? Wouldn’t I?

But I wonder if I would go now, today. Would I check my calendar? Would I schedule a visit? Would I go before I bought a gift? Maybe I should pray about it first.

How much do I miss by checking things out, preparing, scheduling, getting ready? The shepherds didn’t pause. They said, “Let’s go…”

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. (Luke 2:15-18)

They went—actually, they hurried. They found Jesus. They spread the word. And those who heard it were amazed!

Like those simple men on the Judean hills, let’s not complicate our response but hasten to discover truth and spread the word.

We have a thrilling Christmas message—let’s hurry off and amaze some people, today.

Angel Travelers on a Mission

Christmas Travelers

Annunciation to the Shepherds

Did you ever try to imagine what it was like in heaven when Jesus was born on earth? We have no idea how much the angels understood about God’s glorious provision for man’s salvation, but they were heaven-dwellers who lived in Jesus’ company. Even with limited understanding they must have sensed something big was happening—something earth-shattering. At the climax of this world’s history, the angels were sent on their greatest mission yet, as told in Luke two. An angel traveled to earth to deliver the most significant message of all time,

“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.”

The angel’s astounding, earth-changing news could not wait for Mary to recover, for Joseph to notify family, or for the shepherds to prepare. This good news of incredible joy happened that day—same-day delivery before the days of internet, texts, and tweets. They declared it in the heavens, proclaiming to men the Messiah had come!

Heaven and earth had waited long enough and now “the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman” (Galatians 4:4). The angel traveled to earth to announce the birth of the long-awaited Messiah, and he didn’t come alone.

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:13-14)

Lord, fill us today with unrestrained angel-like joy that impels us to declare the Christmas message to the common shepherds in our lives. And let our praise be glorious!

For fascinating reading about what could have been Heaven’s perspective, I highly recommend The Birth by Gene Edwards.

Mary, Joseph & a Donkey without MapQuest

Christmas Travelers

6myriams-fotos_pixabayWhich is harder to imagine?

  • A trip on a four-legged beast without heat, reclining seats or a radio?
  • Heading anywhere without MapQuest or Google Maps?

Complicate the scenario with a first-time, full-term pregnancy; a journey not for pleasure but required by unjust law; and an unspecified destination with no room reservations.

Joseph and Mary set out on their arduous journey with all of those complications in full play:

  • The supernatural pregnancy was not sought, expected, or fully comprehended. It was rife with social and relational challenges, stretching the couple’s faith in God and their commitment to each other.
  • The decree was unreasonable, inconvenient, and burdensome, ordered by a Godless Roman unjustly governing a land that belonged to the Jews.
  • They traveled to the town of Joseph’s lineage, knowing the route but no details—and without layette, bassinet, or midwife.

And, yet, the God who goes before them (and us) was present. Though the particulars of overbooked lodgings, an unsanitary delivery room, and a feeding-trough-cradle appall us, God had orchestrated those details, just as He orchestrates ours.

It may be that you’re also traveling an unfamiliar road, in trying circumstances, dealing with inadequate conditions. Be assured of this—God is present on the journey, covering the details, offering grace, and awaiting your arrival.

And, who knows? There may be angels, shepherds, and gift-bearers somewhere in your future.

May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it. 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24

Learning from the Angels

shepherds angels (1)

The angels appeared to the shepherds with a long-awaited, earth-shattering, can-it-really-be-true? message: “A Savior has been born to you.” As amazing as this announcement was, a gentle progression preceded their proclamation. Read it for yourself in Luke 2: 8-15.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

The angel arrived on the hillside with an astounding announcement, but before that, he calmed the shepherds’ fears. His first words were, “Do not be afraid.” The angel had the shepherds’ attention but needed to prepare the men to hear the message. It makes me wonder how often fear stands in the way of receiving—in the physical world and in the spiritual world.

The angel still didn’t make his announcement; he stated his purpose, “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” There was urgency to the angel’s message, but the heavenly being didn’t rush. His shepherd audience needed further preparation—they were going to hear good news, a message of joy for them and the entire world.

Finally, the announcement was made: “A Savior has been born to you.” The angel proclaimed the history-changing, life-altering, sin-solving message of hope. The proclamation was simple and straightforward, without explanation of prophecy or theology.

The angel concluded with details, which were also a teaser. “You will find a baby…lying in a manger.” He didn’t tell the shepherds what to do, but enticed them to discover the truth for themselves. Then a host of angels appeared and burst into praise, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

With little information and the inspiration of the angels’ song resounding in their hearts, the shepherds were compelled to act.

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

Isn’t that exactly how God is with us? He calms our fears so we’ll be in a position to listen. He gentles our spirit before speaking His message. He tells us truth, plainly and simply, with information enough to inspire us to go and see for ourselves.

And the angels sing.

Photo compliments of endoftheage.blogspot.com

For Us: A Child, A Kingdom, Peace

stockvault-mont-saint-michel138300I love reading Isaiah 9:6-7b during Advent, but I felt sad that familiarity can rob such a beautiful passage of its magnificence. I determined to spend time meditating on the words and share the blessings of that quiet time with you.

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase [greatness] of his government and peace
there will be no end.

Isaiah does not say the child is born to a virgin–isn’t that curious? Rather, he writes that a child is born to us. He is given to us. This birth was not about Mary, it was about us. It’s only about Mary insomuch as she’s one of us. He was born for the sake and salvation of humanity.

The child who was to be born would carry the government, the ruler-ship of the world, on His shoulders. When we think of carrying a burden on our shoulders, we think of a weight, heaviness. But it would not be a burden for Him, but a high calling and position of power and majesty. He is ruler of a Kingdom and we are invited into its citizenship. As ruler He is:

Counselor, God, Father, Prince—Holy Spirit, Father, Son. This is familiar to us, as are the descriptive words Isaiah uses, but take a moment to meditate on those words:

  • Wonderful—full of wonder; magnificent, superb, breathtaking, amazing, astonishing, fantastic, brilliant, great—we will never grasp the fullness of His wonder. Rather than be satisfied at revelations of His wonder, we will only long for more revelations.
  • Mighty—powerful, strong, potent, great, grand–nothing is beyond His ability, outside His power, too great for His might.
  • Everlastingever-lasting; lasts, doesn’t fade—eternal, endless, ceaseless, never-ending, perpetual, undying, unending; as opposed to temporary, short-lived, passing. His reign and supremacy isn’t temporary. It never becomes less, is never threatened, never wavers.
  • Peace—calm, quiet, stillness, tranquility, harmony, serenity; not chaotic or turbulent, no upheaval. In all situations, at all times He brings peace. He is ever in control of time and events.

There is no end to the increase, or greatness, of His government or its peace. There is never a disruption or lull; never a government coup. No one can usurp His power or overtake His position. His government ever grows and increases until the day comes when all things will be under His feet.

So, yes, a Savior was born in Bethlehem… and what a Savior He is–a wonderful Counselor, mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace of a Kingdom without end.